If you’re choosing between Pete and Kamala for 2024, we’ve all already lost

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 (AP)
(AP)

Democrats just can’t take the win.

Yesterday, President Joe Biden signed into law a historic bill that will bring more than $1 trillion in much-needed improvements to America’s roads, bridges, ports, and more. It was a monumental achievement, the biggest investment in America’s infrastructure since Dwight Eisenhower built the interstate system. Democrats should have been celebrating. Instead, they took to Twitter to have a moan about other Democrats.

Michael Harriot of The Root tweeted that “they” are trying to “leapfrog” Pete Buttigieg over Kamala Harris, presumably in the 2024 primary. Meanwhile, an Elizabeth Warren supporter tweeted a disparaging comparison of Boston mayor-elect Michelle Wu with Buttigieg. All this pales in comparison to the various staffers and supporters, past and present, of the Vice President who spoke to CNN about her frustrations at being “sidelined.”

What should have been a banner day for our party turned into one dominated by that old familiar headline of “Dems in disarray.” The party seems hellbent on doing what it always does: squandering a victory to instead engage in some internecine warfare and palace intrigue. As both a lifelong member of the party and an American voter with a vested interest in the success of this party, I find this deeply frustrating.

CNN reports that Kamala Harris “could be just a year away from launching a presidential campaign of her own,” given unsubstantiated speculation that President Biden will not seek reelection in 2024. And many are already salivating for a Pete/Kamala grudge match.

As far as I am concerned, this is not only a false dichotomy but a fool’s errand. Joe Biden is still the president. 2024 is three years away, and we have an election to win next year first. Fighting over who succeeds Biden when he is still very much in control is as pointless as it is counterproductive. To voters, it seems self-indulgent when we need to be focused on solving the many problems facing our nation.

Those problems are not small. Whether Democrats want to admit it or not, we are in an economic quandary, if not outright crisis. Inflation has not risen this fast since 1990. Gas prices are going up. Store shelves are empty as the supply chain crisis drags on into the holiday season and, by the looks of it, the new year. Wages are stagnant. The pandemic rages on. And do not even get me started on the increasing threat of far-right terrorism and creeping autocracy.

A sense of malaise hangs over the country like a thick, choking smog. Yet the Democrats just passed a massive investment in our collective future, one that will have tangible benefits to the average American and provide real improvements to their lives. We should be taking a victory lap, showing the country what we can do when we put aside our differences, compromise, and work to solve the issues of the American people. President Trump promised an infrastructure bill, but it took President Biden and Democrats to deliver.

Yet instead, we’re sniping. I’m disappointed, but not surprised. Democrats always do this.

We did it after the enormously popular Affordable Care Act passed, when there was talk of Bernie primarying Obama and we complained about how it didn’t go far enough rather than highlighting just how far it went. We can’t afford to do that now. Not when the stakes are so high.

The republic needs a united Democratic Party. Public policy critique always has a place in our democracy, but we cannot afford to fracture over personalities. That is what Republicans are doing with their cult-like worship of Donald Trump. Look at what happened to Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming. I’m not even sure I can call her a Republican anymore, since her state party decided to stop recognizing her as such because she was insufficiently loyal to Donald Trump.

That is frightening, but it also illustrates the difference between us and them. Democrats, unlike Republicans, are not a cult of personality. We are not governed by the whims of one man. We are a big-tent party, inclusive and with room for people from varying shades of the left — from conservative-liberal Joe Manchin to democratic socialist Bernie Sanders.

We compromise. We do the hard work. We get things done by finding consensus and building bridges — in this case quite literally. That is the difference between us and Republicans, and we need to highlight it with the American people.

Jockeying in a succession battle that would make the Roys blush is not a good look. The authoritarian right is still ascendant, and there is every chance it could reclaim Congress next year and the White House in ’24. Democrats fighting other Democrats isn’t going to help us save American democracy.

Less bitter backbiting and more building back better, please.

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